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You’ve decided you want to spend the rest of your life with your partner. You’re going to propose. You’ve picked out the ideal place to pop the question, you’ve prepared your speech and you’re only missing one thing — the perfect engagement ring.
For many people, an engagement ring is the first major piece of jewelry they’ll ever buy, leading many to question the best places to buy an engagement ring, either online or in person. Luckily, necessity is the mother of invention, and during the pandemic, many engagement ring retailers have moved to online retailer models, providing buyers with everything they need to decide on this most important ring.
The best places to buy engagement rings online feature a variety of online technologies to assist in the decision-making process. Many boast high-quality videos, educational guides to diamonds, try-at-home programs and virtual consultations. Below, we’ll take you through the best places to buy engagement rings online, but first, let’s look at the qualities you’ll want to consider when buying a diamond ring as well as what your budget should be.
How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?
Most people wonder how much they should actually be spending on an engagement ring. And, there are a few ways that have been used in the past to determine this answer.
First and foremost, the prevalent theory is that you should spend the equivalent of two months’ salary on the ring. This budgeting method actually stems from a marketing campaign run in the early 1900s, according to a report from the BBC. That campaign claimed that people buying engagement rings should spend one month’s salary on the ring. In the 1980s, this was raised to two months to account for inflation, and more recently, some sources claim you should spend three months of your salary on the ring. While this pricing system is nice in theory, it’s a made-up number and overly simplistic. In reality, you should never go into debt buying a ring. So, if you don’t have three months of salary available, don’t worry about spending that much on your ring.
The second method many ring buyers use is to match the national average, which is approximately $8,000. However, there’s no single one-size-fits-all approach to engagement ring shopping, and it’s really up to you and your partner.
We love what Catbird, a Brooklyn-based jewelry studio featured below, has to say about this topic in their guide to engagement ring shopping: “We think the one to three months salary standard is archaic. We have a wide price range – spend what works for you! Find a ring you love that is perfect for your partner but it’s only half of what you planned on spending? Who cares! More money to buy a beautiful band to go with it later. Or, go on vacation!”
That’s why our third method for deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring is to ask your partner this exact question (yes, really). Hopefully, you’re already talking about marriage, and an honest conversation about this topic shows that you have a strong, trusting relationship. Plus, talking openly really is the best way to ensure you meet their expectations. You might discover they prefer a lab-grown diamond, like the one pictured below from JCPenney, which could end up saving you $7,500.
Our fourth and final method is to pick out the carat size you would prefer and to adjust the other qualities of the diamond in order to arrive at an agreeable price. This works in theory, but you may end up with a diamond of inferior quality if all you care about is carat size and forget about clarity, color and cut.
So, what’s the best way to determine how much to spend on an engagement ring? Look at your finances, determine a ring budget that won’t put you into debt and shop online for the best option that fits your budget.
Keep reading to learn more about the best places to buy engagement rings online so that you can buy your partner a ring that will remind them of your love every day of their lives.
1. Blue Nile
Blue Nile is the OG of online engagement ring retailers. Since 1999, Blue Nile has been cutting out the middleman, connecting future spouses with diamonds direct from manufacturers. As such, they offer the largest stock of diamond jewelry available anywhere online. They also have strong relationships with designers and vendors, meaning you’ll find some super unique and utterly gorgeous rings on their website.
When selecing the best places to buy engagement rings online, Blue Nile has everything we’re looking for — excellent customer experience, huge selection, reasonable prices and customization options. Not only do they offer a Diamond Price-Match Guarantee and ready-to-ship rings, but they also have a “Build Your Own Ring” service as well as virtual appointments to help you find the perfect ring for your engagement.
If you’re shopping for a conflict-free diamond, you can’t go wrong with VRAI. This brand only sells lab-grown diamonds from The Diamond Foundry. These gems are manufactured in California with solar energy, meaning the process has a zero carbon footprint and does not rely on mining. And while these diamonds are not natural stones, they can be slightly cheaper. Plus, VRAI offers some very unique, modern designs as well as more classic cuts.
3. James Allen
Although Blue Nile was the first company to corner the online engagement ring market, James Allen followed closely behind. Today, Blue Nile and James Allen are constantly duking it out for the top spot. That means that these two companies have the best technology and stock availability of any online engagement ring retailers. But the one place that James Allen has really has the upper hand is with their video technology. Their high-quality videos of the diamonds available, especially for odd cuts, are invaluable during the selection process. On top of that, James Allen excels with amazing customer service, great prices and partnerships with excellent designers.
4. Tiffany & Co.
Blue Nile may be the original destination for buying engagement rings, but Tiffany & Co. is the original destination for engagement rings, period. Diamonds have been commonly used in wedding jewelry for centuries, but the modern diamond engagement ring was introduced by Tiffany & Co. in 1886, and many women dream about one day sliding a classic diamond ring from Tiffany’s onto their ring finger. The jeweler has a legendary reputation, and while its jewelry is famously expensive, there’s no replacement for a Tiffany’s ring.
A diamond ring with the iconic Tiffany Setting starts at about $15,000, and you will need to call to purchase one of the company’s pricier rings. That’s why we haven’t featured Tiffany & Co. higher on this list. Because while it’s a great place to buy engagement rings, it’s not necessarily one of the best places to buy engagement rings online. Still, if you live far away from the nearest Tiffany & Co. location, then the jeweler’s online store is a good place to start shopping for the perfect wedding ring.
BEST BUDGET OPTION
When shopping for an engagement ring, JCPenney may not be the first place that jumps to mind. However, you’ve likely walked past their jewelry cases on a trip to one of their many mall-based locations. JCPenney actually has a vast array of diamond jewelry, and their online shop often has some of the best sales on engagement rings we’ve ever seen. On the other hand, keep in mind that this retailer does not offer the ability to customize settings, cuts or carats. It also doesn’t have an option for virtual appointments to talk through the selection process.
JCPenney doesn’t have the most modern designs, but because the department store’s online jewelry store often has diamond jewelry discounted by as much as 80%, it’s a great place to find a diamond engagement ring under $1,000.
Read More: JCPenney’s Diamond Jewelry Is 80% Off for Valentine’s Day
We’re big fans of Catbird, a jewelry studio based in Brooklyn, New York. We frequently include Catbird in our gift guides, including our guides to the top Valentine’s Day gifts and the best gifts for your wife. Catbird offers a huge range of prices, which means you can find engagement rings and wedding bands that will fit any budget. From five-figure rings with huge sparkling gemstones to understated rings under $1,000, Catbird has something to suit the love of your life. Best of all, Catbird makes its jewelry from ethically sourced and conflict-free materials. Finally, Catbird has absolutely gorgeous designs, and so if you’re looking for something unique, then this indie jeweler should be at the top of your list.
7. With Clarity
BEST HOME PREVIEW
The problem with shopping for an engagement ring online is that you don’t get to hold and feel it, let alone try it on before purchasing. But, With Clarity has invented a unique solution to that issue with their Home Preview program. The company will ship you a 3D-printed replica of the ring you select to try on for free. In terms of available styles, With Clarity offers both ready-to-ship rings and a custom ring builder with 8,000 different ways to customize the diamond, setting, metal and shape of the ring.
Most people will tell you that you should buy a ring from Gemist because the brand offers a fabulous try-at-home program. And, those people would be correct. For a small deposit, Gemist will send you a set of three faux rings to try for two weeks. Send those rings back and select a winner, and Gemist will get to work custom building your ring using ethically-sourced stones. However, what we love most about Gemist is their On The Hunt program, which provides consumers with a 30-minute or less consultation with a stylist to talk about design ideas and customizations.
BEST SHIPPING OPTIONS
You likely associate the brand Jared with engagement rings thanks to the company’s prolific TV ads as well as the fact that they boast 274 stores across the USA. But did you know that Jared is also one of the major players in the online engagement ring space? When Jared execs set out to create their online experience, they wanted to make their website just like stepping into one of their stores. And, for the most part, they’ve succeeded. In addition to an impressive inventory of cuts and settings, Jared also offers virtual appointments to help you with the customization process. But, what really sets Jared apart is its shipping options, allowing free pick up of any in-stock ring from any store in as little as two days.
10. Kay Jewelers
You’re probably already singing it in your head, so why not say it aloud? Every kiss begins with Kay. Kay Jewelers is one of the most recognized engagement ring brands in the country, mostly thanks to their catchy jingle but also because they offer a quality product that any man or woman would love to receive. The brand offers pre-set and customizable rings, like most of the other retailers on this list, but the one area where Kay Jewelers really succeeds is with its collections, like the Neil Lane Bridal, Adrianna Papel and Leo Diamond Collections. This provides you with a dazzling array of unique designs containing ethically sourced diamonds and other gemstones.
BEST FOR NON-TRADITIONAL RINGS
For an engagement ring that’s off-beat, unique or vintage, you can’t beat the selection available on Etsy. The site has an entire section dedicated to engagement rings, and you’ll find a wide variety of pre-owned rings, engagement rings built with non-traditional gemstones and unique, handmade rings. However, it’s important to note that quality can vary by seller, so make sure to seek out graded diamonds and certificates of authentication, if that’s important to you.
As mentioned above, the amount you spend on an engagement ring is totally up to you. Some people only have a budget of $500 or less, and Zales recognizes that. Since 1924, Zales has called itself “The Diamond Store” for good reason. This retailer has diamonds of all shapes, sizes and qualities, allowing you to pick a ring that’s in your budget yet is still beautiful. Although you can shop at Zales in person, their online store wonderfully showcases the rings they have available and has a built-in customizer to allow you to choose the setting, cut, carat, color and clarity of your engagement ring.
Understanding the 4 Cs of Diamonds
There’s a lot to consider when buying an engagement ring, but if you’ve decided on a diamond, it’s time to look at the four Cs. According to the American Gem Society, the four qualities to consider when shopping for diamond jewelry include cut, color, clarity and carat weight.
- Cut – The first C is cut. A well-cut diamond will reflect light through the crown rather than out the bottom or sides. The rarest of cuts will reflect almost all the light that enters the diamond. The terms fire, brilliance and scintillation all refer to different aspects of a gemstone’s cut.
- Color – The color of a diamond can range from nearly clear to light yellow. This is graded on a letter scale with ‘D’ being icey white and ‘Z’ being yellow.
- Clarity – Clarity is the third C, and it refers to the diamond’s markings or flaws. GIA developed the scale on which this is measured, with the best being a flawless diamond, which is incredibly rare, and the worst being ‘Included 3,’ which is the least rare.
- Carat Weight – The fourth C is carat weight, which is the measurement with which most people are familiar. This is essentially the size of the diamond.
Natural Diamonds vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds
The most important consideration when determining how much your engagement ring will cost is likely whether you’ll be purchasing a natural diamond or a lab-grown diamond.
Diamonds have been ‘grown’ in labs for several dozen years, however, the display quality of such diamonds wasn’t such that jewelers wanted to work with them until about five years ago. Today, almost every online retailer for engagement rings sells both natural and lab-grown diamonds, so it’s important to understand the differences.
Natural diamonds are created under the pressure of the Earth’s crust in a process that takes millions of years. They are then mined, cut as desired and polished. However, there are an extremely limited number of diamonds on Earth, and the vast majority that are mined are not suitable for jewelry making. This scarcity means that natural diamonds are expensive, but they also retain their value and make tremendous heirlooms.
On the other hand, lab-grown diamonds are manufactured using high pressures and high temperatures or chemical vapor deposition. These processes can create diamonds, which are identical to natural diamonds using the naked eye, in just a few short weeks. The only way to tell lab-grown diamonds apart from natural diamonds is the trace amounts of nitrogen natural diamonds contain.
As you might expect, lab-grown diamonds are significantly cheaper than natural diamonds, because they are not necessarily scarce gemstones. You are merely paying for the manufacturing process and that technology. Because of this lab-grown diamonds have become cheaper over the past several years, and the industry expects the price to continue to drop, meaning that a lab-grown diamond ring likely won’t retain its value as a natural diamond ring will.
When deciding between a natural diamond and a lab-grown diamond, the choice mostly comes down to budget and personal preference. Either way, you’ll end up with a gorgeous diamond ring that is sure to put a smile on his or her face.
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